Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest: From #630 Through #639

Here is a look at the latest ten films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These ten films were seen between June 15th and August 6th.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

#630 - Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
(#805 on TSPDT) This directorial debut of John Carpenter, the man who would go on to become one of the most daring horror directors of the seventies and eighties (his later output not as interesting nor as daring) is a remake of sorts of Howard Hawks' classic Rio Bravo (with some of Romero's Night of the Living Dead thrown in for good measure).  Bringing the western into a modern urban setting, Carpenter started off with the proverbial bang.  In case you wonder if the man has balls enough to blow away a blonde-haired, pig-tailed little girl eating an ice cream cone -- well he does (and shows it too).  You can read more on this great debut film by checking out "Why John Carpenter's Subversive & Brilliant Assault on Precinct 13 is one of the Best Pictures Ever Made" elsewhere on this blog.

#631 - Dead Ringers (1988)
(#498 on TSPDT) I suppose you could say that only David Cronenberg would come up with a psychological horror film revolving around drug-addicted twin gynecologists but truth be told, the film is actually based on a book and (quite loosely) on a real life case.  Still though, it would take a director as daring as Cronenberg to actually make the film work - and it does work for the most part.  Cronenberg's natural creepiness as a filmmaker is highly evident here (perhaps even more so than in most of his more blatantly horror-style films) but it is the the dual performance by Jeremy Irons (just prior to his Oscar-winning role as Claus von Bulow) that makes the film as jarring as it ends up being.  After all, just the fact that this is one of the favourite films of Korean killer driller auteur Park Chan-wook should say all that needs to be said.

#632 - Les Diaboliques (1955)
(#568 on TSPDT) My only previous Henri-Georges Clouzot was the wonderful Wages of Fear (one of my all-time favourite films).  This second look at the director is almost as stunning - perhaps even just as stunning.  There is a disclaimer that was originally shown with the film telling moviegoers not to tell the film's secret - so I will hold to that here (and it's a fun one indeed).  As far as the look of the film goes, it is sufficiently moody for the diabolical storyline and Clouzot's use of visual shock is as good here as anything in Hitchcock.  And speaking of ole Hitch, it was he who first tried to get the rights to make this film before being beaten to the punch by his French counterpart.  This film did then in turn become the (loose) inspiration for Psycho (a fact that has been substantiated by the author of Psycho, Robert Bloch, who claims Les Diaboliques as his favourite film).

#633 - The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
(#434 on TSPDT) To be honest I probably saw this at some point during my childhood - probably on a Saturday afternoon movie on TV - but since I do not actually remember seeing it (and lo and behold, after watching it I did not remember much of it) I must see it now in order to check it off the list.  Watching it on Blu-ray on the big screen one night after the cinema closed made the experience even greater.  Done in fabulous Technicolor (the costumes and sets garishly bright in order to emphasize this still young technology) Michael Curtiz & William Keighley's rousing adventure story is a thing of giddy beauty.  Errol Flynn swashing his buckle all over the place, Olivia de Havilland looking oh so Maid Marion-like (aka, gorgeous as all get out, but in the sweetest kind of way), regular Flynn sidekick Alan Hale Jr. and regular Flynn nemesis Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains as pushy Prince John, make for a fun time had by all.

#634 - The War of the Worlds (1953)
(#793 on TSPDT) I seem to have been quite obsessed with 1950's sci-fi movies this summer and The War of the Worlds is one of the better ones I have seen.  Quite modern special effects for the period (cheesy as they may be I prefer these effects to Spielberg's light show in the quite inferior remake) and a fun story about survival.  Perhaps it drags a bit (though not as much as Spielberg's aforementioned remake) but still a fun fun movie indeed.  And hey, this original version does not have Dakota Fanning screeching like a howler monkey.

#635 - The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
(#891 on TSPDT) Another in my Summer-long obsession with 1950's sci-fi, this quite shocking film is one of my favourites (and probably my favourite that does not involve aliens).  Yeah, perhaps it looks silly when compared to today's special effects, and yes that is a tarantula poor little Robert Scott Carey is fighting and not a common house spider, but damn is it fun.  Directed by genre master (and cult director) Jack Arnold, this movie amazed even this jaded critic.  When he is being pursued by his own pet cat (and assumed eaten) it is great fun (and somewhat scary as I peer over at my own cat).

#636 - Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
(#373 on TSPDT) And yet again, my obsession with 1950's sci-fi rears its deformed mutant head.  Along with The Day the Earth Stood Still (which is also on the list) this is my favourite of the genre.  Creepy beyond belief (and possibly nightmare inducing) this story of aliens, or pod people, taking over our bodies when we fall asleep is definitely nightmare inducing.  Eventually you will have to fall asleep so how do you fight these thing?  You don't, that's how!  Which is why the original ending (a definite downer that was replaced with a somewhat more hopeful ending by the studio) is one of the best endings in not just this genre, but in all movies everywhere.  Now don't fall asleep.

#637 - Strangers When We Meet (1960)
(#999 on TSPDT) One of those ever-so-sophisticated adult melodramas of the period, Richard Quine's sultry burner is one of the lesser known but better of the genre. Starring Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak as married people having an affair, this (sort of) pot boiler is sexy and sophisticated both.  WE even get Novak asking Douglas how he shaves that thing on his chin.  Toned down from the typical melodrama of the time (Sirk did the genre proudest but one could not call his work subtle at all) Quine's adult drama is well acted on all behalfs (including an especially slithery Walter Matthau).  Why the film is only #999 on the list amazes me though.  I would personally put it at least in the top half if not the top 250.  Read more on this film by checking out "The Sultry, Sophisticated Suburban Affairs of Kirk Douglas & Kim Novak in Strangers When We Meet" elsewhere on this blog.

#638 - The Servant (1963)
(#411 on TSPDT) A delectably deceiving little film by British director Joseph Losey.  This is the story of a youngish wealthy Englishman (played in his film debut by James Fox) and his deceptive, diabolical manservent, played with a cocksure bravura by the always amazing Dirk Bogarde.  As Bogarde's servant begins to play games with his employer - including sexual power plays - the psyche's of all the main characters begin to erode and crack and eventually explode.  Also starring Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig, Losey's film is a razzle dazzle performance piece for all four actors.  A psychological deconstruction of class and the barriers that are placed between them.  Of the ten films on this list, this is probably my second favourite.

#639 - The Music Room (1958)
(#204 on TSPDT) Still not quite sure how I feel about this one.  My first look at a non-Apu Satyajit Ray film, The Music Room is the socio-political (and I do not really know enough about Indian culture to consider myself as fully understanding the goings-on within the film) story of a man who is willing to sacrifice everything he has, including his own family and wealth, in order to keep the respect and lifestyle he has become accustomed to.  What stands out above everything though is the hauntingly beautiful music Ray laces his film with.  Gorgeous and siren-like, these musical numbers, along with Ray's natural affinity for visual storytelling,  are the powerful highlight to a film that is perhaps (due again to my lack of knowledge of Indian politics) beyond my grasp to fully comprehend.  Still though - it is a thing of beauty to behold.

1 comment:

Sam Fragoso said...

Kudos to you for being this dedicated and versatile to watching new films.

Good stuff.